Results tagged ‘ Akron Aeros ’
In my capacity as floundering elder blogger-statesman of the Minor League scene, I’ve written about more than my share of patently unhealthy and/or ridiculously oversized and/or ridiculously conceived concession items.
Y’know, like this “Ramen Dawg” that the Salem Red Sox served during last month’s “College Night” promotion.
But there’s a yin to every yang, a Jekyll to every Hyde, a Shobam to every Yobam, which is to say that for the remainder of today’s post I will feature some downright healthy ballpark undertakings.
Let’s start with the Akron Aeros, who, perhaps in atonement for the “Inside Out Burger,” recently staged a promotion with the undeniably awesome name of “Vegan Iron Chef.” Director of promotions Christina Shisler explains:
For Vegan Iron Chef we have partnered with the “Who’s Your Mama? Earth Day Festival” to bring in Vegan Iron Chef contestants and a Vegetable Carving Championship Competition to Canal Park on April 22 (Earth Day)! There will be eight chefs making vegan dishes for a table of judges. Fans will get to watch, as the competition begins when gates open, and then sample vegan food throughout the game.
Two of the competitors in action.
And, yes, there was also a Vegetable Carving Championship.
Team-logo Cantaloupe. (Cantalogo?)
Winner, winner, meat-free dinner!
For another excellent bit of healthy ballpark living we go to the Quad Cities, as the River Bandits staged a “Race the Game” promotion as a follow-up of sorts to their inaugural 5K race. Director of promotions and marketing Shane Huff explains:
[We] invited one of the top overall finishers [in the 5K race] to come back to today’s game and literally race the game. This contestant, Marvin McMeekan, will try to comlete a 9-mile run on a treadmill - placed on the outfield berm for everyone to see – before the game becomes official. If Marvin can beat the game, EVERYONE in attendance wins a prize. We’re going to interview Marvin before the game and do live look-ins throughout the game to help build suspense.
Marvin in action.
I, for one, never had any doubt that Marvin would complete the task. And he did, ably. Writes Huff:
It went very well. The live look-ins between innings really helped get the crowd get into it. And Marvin crushed it! He completed the 9 miles with just under an inning to spare!
It went so well that we’re already discussing plans on doing it again later this summer on a night with a bigger crowd and better prizes.
Race the Game is a great, easily adaptable idea and if it doesn’t catch on then I will be deeply disappointed in the entire industry. (Crushed, even, in the non I-just-outraced-a-ballgame-sense-of-the-word.)
And if you want add a real sense of drama to the whole thing, then invite me to be the runner. I’d probably fail, and failing is what I do best (especially in front of crowds).
On that note I shall conclude. Tomcat says “Have a Great Weekend!”
More on that guy in an upcoming post.
Over the past two weeks I have spent a heroic amount of time combing through the promotional schedules of Minor League full season teams, in search of the best, brightest, weirdest and wackiest innovations that will be on offer during the 2013 campaign.
As always, this was a LOT of information to digest, especially since there are many teams that schedule multiple promotions for each and every contest. Such promo overload is the inevitable result of the industry’s never-ending quest to be all things to all people, and as an added bonus it sometimes provides unintentional comedy fodder. (The best example of this comes courtesy of an Eastern League club that shall remain anonymous, who in 2011 scheduled “Tribute to Michael Jackson” on the same evening as “Boy Scout Sleepover Night.”)
What follows is a brief list of absurd and/or incongruous promo combinations scheduled for the 2013 season. Maybe one of them will be incongruously taking place at a ballpark near you! (And, of course, if you have further examples then please send ‘em my way.)
Akron Aeros — International Juggler’s Day/Thirsty Thursday
This can’t end well.
Kannapolis Intimidators — $2 16 oz Budweiser drafts/Operation Family Time (May 17)
Spending time with the family can be stressful, but the Intimidators are offering a way to take the edge off.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans — Hangover Night/Thirsty Thursday (May 23)
Seems like “Hangover Night” would make more sense on May 24th…
Omaha Storm Chasers — Superhero Cape Giveaway/Diaper Derby (June 8)
Perhaps unprepared Diaper Derby participants could just use the cape?
Lakewood BlueClaws — Cecil Fielder Appearance/Wing Fling (June 12)
While perhaps not quite as rotund as his immodestly-named son, Tigers slugger Prince, there’s no denying that Cecil Fielder was one of the largest individuals to ever don a Major League uniform. He’s scheduled to sign autographs at Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park on June 12, during which the BlueClaws will also be staging a “Wing Fling.” Local restaurateurs will compete in a “best wing” contest, and it seems to me that Cecil would be the perfect judge. And if he’s moved to participate in the scheduled “wing-eating contest”? Forget about it…
Quad Cities River Bandits — “Ghost Rider” Cowboy Monkeys/John Deere Night (June 15)
The Cowboy Monkeys usually ride border collies, but perhaps on this special evening they could ride a tractor instead.
Frederick Keys — Meet the Team/Pajama Night (June 23)
Finally — a socially acceptable way to mingle with professional athletes in an outdoor setting while wearing a bathrobe.
Frederick Keys — Military and Civilians Night (July 31st)
Or, as I like to call it — “Everybody Night.”
Hickory Crawdads — Kids Run the Show/Unemployment Night (August 7)
Well, yeah — when kids are running the show then the adults are out of a job!
I’ve got plenty more where this came from, and I’m sorry if that sounds like a threat.
Things were a bit slow on the news front over the past couple of weeks, a situation that led to posts where I, you know, used a thesaurus to improve upon 140-characters or less baseball messages.
But no more! Things are really heating up these days (metaphorically), and from this point forward I will have lots to write about. And what I feel it would be prudent to write about today is the sudden glut of new videoboards in the Eastern League. The Akron Aeros, Trenton Thunder and Reading Fightin’ Phils will all be sporting new boards in 2013, and what better time than now to take a look at this triumvirate of LED-based enhancements?
Let’s start with the Aeros, whose new owner Ken Babby was the focus of my latest Minoring in Business column over on MiLB.com. Last week, the team revealed plans for a $1.65 million Daktronics videoboard project. A rendering:
The Aeros board is 26′ x 68′, which they note is the “largest main video display in Double-A baseball and unofficially the fifth-largest in Minor League Baseball in LED size.”
A comparison of the team’s old board vs. the new one, in visual form:
And, of course, that’s not all. For there will also be a ribbon board.
But perhaps it would be most apropos for me to show this all to you in video form:
Okay, that’s enough. Let’s move on.
Akron’s new videoboard announcement came right on the heels of Trenton making a similar proclamation. (Over Twitter I declared that the Aeros stole Trenton’s Thunder, which was part of my unsuccessful bid to start an insult war between the two clubs).
Here’s a mock-up of what the Thunder’s recently-rechristened Arm & Hammer Park will be looking like in 2013 and beyond. What I’m wondering is this: How is the shortstop already ranging to his right and preparing to dive? The pitcher hasn’t even completed his delivery!
Photos shall be followed by facts, that’s the Ben’s Biz way! This is per the team:
Once installed, the project, which includes the addition of a 21′ x 68′ high density screen in right field, a new 20′ x 16′ display in left field and a new 14′ x 15′ highway marquee will make unprecedented technological advances while enhancing the fan experience at ARM & HAMMER Park.
The centerpiece of the improvement will be the 21′x 68′ world-class video board in right field that totals 1,428 square feet, more than four times larger than the previous video screen.
Other aspects of the project include a new message/data display in left field that will provide superior visibility and a larger and higher definition picture display on the highway marquee found outside the stadium along Rt. 29. The Thunder’s video production will now have replay capabilities, enhanced HD cameras, pitch speed and more.
The third and final EL entity to be featured in today’s entry are the recently re-christened Reading Fightin’ Phils. Their recent $1 million multi-media investment is highlighted by a 30′ x 60′ videoboard that shall feature “the clearest picture of any board in the Minors.”
The team’s press release is well-worth checking out, particularly as it includes a bevy (yes, a bevy) of before and after pictures. But in the interest of brevity I shall forgo this bevy, and instead quote judiciously from said release.
[T]he team will be installing a $1 million multimedia video board project at FirstEnergy Stadium with the help of TS Sports of Dallas, Texas in the months leading up to the 2013 season. Once installed, the project, which includes the addition of a 30′x60′ HD10 board in center field, will make unprecedented technological advances while enhancing the fan experience at America’s Classic Ballpark.
“We are very excited to announce this investment into your ballpark,” said Fightin Phils General Manager Scott Hunsicker. “Some may be wondering ‘What was wrong with the existing videoboard?’ and the truthful answer is nothing, but here at the Fightin Phils, we do not believe in leaving well enough alone. We do not believe in the mantra ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Instead, we believe in ‘fightin’ for what is best for our fans and ‘fightin’ to provide the best fan experience possible.”
The centerpiece of the improvement will be the 30′x 60′ HD10 video board in center field that totals 1,800 square feet, making it the largest video board among Double-A teams and 4th largest in Minor League Baseball. As just the fifth HD10 board installed by TS Sports, Reading’s will be the largest that TS Sports has ever installed. With superior resolution, the board will be illuminated by the second most LEDs of any team behind the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.
Of course, the above assertion regarding Reading’s Double-A videoboard supremacy is no longer true as the Aeros have trumped them by a mere 32 square feet. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in the world of Minor League scoreboards. A dog eat dog world.
(And, as an aside, Hunsicker’s quote seems to be a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the fan criticism that accompanied the team’s recent name change from the Phillies to the “Fightin’ Phils.)
I’ve been to all three ballparks featured in this post, and it is my opinion that the Thunder were the team that was most truly in need of a new board. Here’s a pic from my visit to Trenton last season, which perhaps can give you a sense of how tiny the old board was. Its visibility was nil, akin to a mosquito perched upon Paul Bunyan.
And that shall do it for this, the latest and therefore greatest entry in the Ben’s Biz canon.
Apropos of nothing, but I’m currently reading a book of Stephen King short stories and the thought has occurred to me that Stephen King might enjoy this blog should he ever come across it. I hope to one day to receive an encouraging email from him.
Last year the Akron Aeros unleashed the “Three Dog Night” and “Nice 2 Meat You Burger” upon the world, immediately establishing themselves as prime-time players in the world of ridiculously meaty and grotesquely oversized concession items. Despite a significant amount of staff turnover since those heady days (including the departure of food and beverage director Jason Kerton), the team has nonetheless retained its commitment to this type of culinary experience.
It has barely been promoted to the world at large, but via the team’s Facebook page I was able to ascertain the existence of the “Inside Out Burger.”
The team reports, also on Facebook, that this reversified concoction was “created by Canal Park Food and Beverage Director, Nate Michel” and “features two burgers on the outside, kielbasa, cheese, pulled pork, and the bottom part of a hamburger bun in the middle.”
A flattering image of man and burger:
Comments on the Facebook page were largely negative, especially from females, prompting one Mike Dallas to write “What are all you girls talking ’bout? This burger is all that…and a bag of chips…holla at your boy!”
I’ll let Mr. Dallas have the final word in this particular debate, but in other matters I have more to say. For instance — my most recent Farm’s Almanac feature ran today, on the time-honored art of scorekeeping. It leads off with an explanation of Wisconsin Timber Rattlers announcer Chris Mehring’s color-coded system, which requires the following supplies:
One great scorekeeping anecdote that I wasn’t able to fit into the piece came courtesy of Pawtucket Red Sox social media maestro Peter Sachs who, in 2010, called the independent league game in which Spaceman Bill Lee earned the win at the age of 63 (the oldest pitcher to ever earn a win in professional game, a mark that Jamie Moyer won’t have the chance to eclipse until 2026). Sachs donated his scorecard from the historic contest to the Hall of Fame, and in return received this:
Pretty cool, right? Along similar lines, I recently received my Major League Baseball “Courtesy Pass,” which admits “Benjamin Hill and guest” to any MLB game (certain restrictions may apply).
It’s a busy time of year, obviously, so I don’t get to use the pass as often as I’d like to. But if you want to be my guest at a game in New York City then send me an email; if we can find a date amenable to both of our schedules then we’ll go. Why not? It’ll be fun.
This is me, in Inland Empire, dressed as a Molar Racer.
The reason I’m showing this picture is because it features my Sony Webbie camera, which has accompanied me on all road trips that I’ve ever undertaken while under the employ of MiLB.com.
We’ve been through a lot, Webbie and I, but I’m now ready to end our relationship. I have become increasingly disheartened with the quality of the photos, especially if movement and/or low lighting is involved. It’s time for an upgrade, but to what?
Does anyone out there have any recommendations? I need something lightweight, easy-to-use, durable, (relatively) cheap, and capable of taking photos worthy of appearing on the number one Minor League Baseball promotions/game operations/travel blog on the internet (I mean, if it’d be good enough for them then it would be good enough for Ben’s Biz Blog.)
I know that many of my readers are far more tech-savvy than I, so let’s hear it! What should be the next Ben’s Biz Blog camera of choice?
Technologically-minded endeavors certainly have their place, but it’s the simple pleasures that what make life worth living. And pleasures don’t get much simpler than that which was covered in Monday’s post: armadillo racing.
Upon seeing said post, one of my embedded contacts within the Tulsa Drillers front office sent the following photos. Apparently, Sparky Sparks and his team of racing armadillos are regular ballpark visitors.
Armadillo racing is undoubtedly thrilling, but not quite as thrilling as stuntman Ted Batchelor. The last time that Batchelor appeared at a Minor League ballpark was 2009, when he ran the bases while on fire following a Savannah Sand Gnats game.
Batchelor, who recently set a Guinness World Record for longest “on fire run” (492 feet), wrote me to report that he has one team booked in 2012 (I’ll let that team make the announcement) but that he “needs many more!” (This is, after all, a man with a stated goal of getting lit on fire in all 50 states.) Check out his website for more info.
But while lighting a man on fire is still a relatively rare occurrence in the Minor Leagues, fireworks are about as common as it gets. And what better way to promote an increased fireworks slate than with a parody of the song “Fireworks”? Take it away, Akron Aeros!
Perry-dy is more like it!
Writing a pre-Thanksgiving post on “what I am thankful for” has the whiff of an obligatory elementary school essay assignment, but I want to get something up on this slice of the internet before it all goes (mercifully) dark for the holidays.
And you know what I’m thankful for? That I have a job that puts me in absurd situations on a regular basis. Some highlights from the 2011 season.
The point of this unbridled exercise in Holiday week narcissism is…well…I guess there is no point. But I do want to issue a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who has supported these absurd endeavors of mine. And it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2012 season — please, get in touch if you have any suggestions regarding Minor League places to go and things to do. I really do try to say “yes” as much as possible.
Finally, two stories are up today that I’d really appreciate if you checked out. First up is my story on Greg Halman, who was stabbed to death earlier this week. I talked to people who knew him at all stops on his Minor League journey, and did the best I could to write something that went beyond “I’m shocked that his happened” quotes.
Elsewhere, I have a guest column up on Baseball Propectus. It’s a pretty through overview of the Minor League mindset, and I sincerely hope it brings a few new converts into the fold.
I never set out to be a food blogger, and, really, I’m not. Nonetheless, food is a important component of the Minor League experience, and throughout my travels this past season I did my best to document ballpark comestibles in particular as well as regional cuisine in general.
Today’s missive (which went live at lunchtime for a reason) is the first of what will be a two-part compendium of the 2011 season’s food-based posts and photos. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section and via email: What are your favorite Minor League ballpark foods, and why?
What follow are some of mine, presented in the order in which they were consumed.
My first 2011 road trip began in Tucson, home of the T-Padres. And what better way to enjoy Kino Stadium’s sunset views than with a plate of nachos from ballpark vendor El Charro? Nothing too fancy, but the freshest of ingredients combined with from-the-oven homemade tortilla chips helped to distinguish this particular platter.
The following afternoon, a reader recommendation led me to local institution El Guero Canelo. The specialty there is the “Sonoran Dog,” which I described as a “hot dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese, salsa, onions, tomatoes, beans, mayonnaise and who knows what else. All of this was safely ensconced in the specially-crafted (and delicious) roll and served with a roasted pepper on the side.”
After a fleeting highway encounter with the still-elusive Biz Girl, I made my west to territories occupied by the California League’s South Division entities. One of the highlights of this leg of the journey came in Lancaster, where I was able to enjoy a non-photo shopped encounter with the JetHawks’ delectable “Sweet Po-Tater Tots.”
The Sweet Po-Taters were a mere appetizer, for then came the so-called “Stealth Burger:” a hamburger topped with pulled pork and onion rings. It was a formidable affair:
The Stealth Burger looked downright microscopic in comparison to the Brobdingnagian creation that was served to me in Lake Elsinore. Behold the Storm’s “Homewrecker,” perhaps best explained in t-shirt form.
The following month I traversed the great state of Ohio (with a detour in Fort Wayne, IN). The first stop on this particular Minor League journey was Toledo, where appropriately-named concessions manager Corey Pleasant laid out a stunning pre-game feast.
Here we have Greek Nachos (gyro meat and pita chips), Pulled Pork Nachos, and “Bases-Loaded Fries.”
But that, of course, was not all. Here’s the “Muddy Dog,” topped with chili, cheese, and onions.
And this artisanal creation is the “Bloomin’ Bacon Burger,” a 1/3 lb. grilled Black Angus beef burger topped with crispy strips of bacon, deep fried onion rings, American cheese, and bistro sauce on a fresh Kaiser bun.
And, of course, no visit to Toledo is complete without a stop at the legendary Tony Packo’s. I visited the Birmingham location before heading west to Fort Wayne, ordering a hot dog with chili, Paprika Dumplings, and a side of “Pickles and Peppers.”
After Toledo, I attended two ballgames at the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ Parkview Field. The majority of the second evening was spent with culinary director Scott Kammerer, who gave me a thorough tour of the team’s concession offerings. The tour resulted in an MiLB.com article, as well as this stunning image:
and a hot dog with “Cincinnati Chili” (the TinCaps’ best attempt to emulate the famous Skyline recipe).
The TinCaps are named after Johnny Appleseed’s iconic headwear, so this Apple Dumpling dessert was a fitting (and inspired) addition to the menu.
From Fort Wayne, I made my way back to the Buckeye State in order to visit the Lake County Captains. Food took a back seat to on-field participation during this jam-packed visit, but this was where I first became aware of the Cleveland-area phenomenon that is “Bertman Ballpark Mustard.”
Bertman’s Mustard: Responsible for the most delectable condiment globules around.
From Lake County it’s a veritable hop, skip and a jump to Mahoning Valley. It was Opening Day for the short-season Scrappers, and I celebrated the return of New York-Penn League baseball with the one-of-a-kind “Warsaw Wings.”
Deep-fried pierogies smothered in hot sauce!
A necessary cool-down soon came in the form of Handel’s Ice Cream. The flavor was called “Scrappy’s Favorite” — caramel ice-cream with bone-shaped chocolate-covered pretzels.
The Ohio excursion ended in Akron’s Canal Park, a location not lacking in death-taunting culinary options. After an exhausting evening that included a pie in the face and a stint in a dunk tank, I had both the following items placed before me.
On the left is the “Nice 2 Meat U Burger,” two 1/3rd pound patties, two hot dogs, bacon, cheese, and onions.
The sauerkraut-covered creation on the right is the “Three Dog Night,” a hot dog stuffed inside a brat stuffed inside a kielbasa.
And, let’s not forget: Bertman Mustard on top of it all!
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of this food-based season retrospective, featuring a bevy of offerings from South and North Carolina as well as the doom metal capital of the world (the state of Maryland, in other words).
Until then, send me your photos and anecdotes related to your favorite ballpark foods and regional creations. I’ll be right here waiting for you.
It’s important to stay grounded, but nonetheless it’s become apparent to me that this blog is over-reliant on terrestrial perspectives. In order to shake things up, then, today’s post will feature some aerial views before returning to Earth.
We’ll start things off in flyover country, as the Indianapolis Indians recently staged a pre-game stunt that was (almost) out of this world. A squadron of Navy “Leap Frogs” parachuted into Victory Field prior to August 16′s ballgame, with Rear Admiral Scott T. Craig throwing out the first pitch. What follows is the video of their practice run that afternoon, giving us a bird’s eye view of the arduous journey from air to ground.
Not quite as high-flying, but airborne nonetheless, are our fine feathered friends the Great Lakes Loons. The team staged their annual “Raining Money” promotion on August 5, in which $2000 in one dollar bills was dropped onto the field from a helicopter. This year, the mad cash scramble was preceded by an excellently-produced short film entitled “The Sleepover,” which segued flawlessly into the promotion itself.
Seeking to retain this elevated position for as long as possible, we now travel to Lakewood, NJ. On August 20 the BlueClaws held their annual blood drive, an event preceded by an awareness-raising stint of roof-living by the appropriately-named “Roofman.”
“Roofman” is also known as “Ryan Ragan,” COO of the Central Jersey Blood Center. He spent five days on the roof prior to the drive, which resulted in a prolonged period of local radio and TV news attention. Here he is, in quieter times.
91 people ended up giving blood at the BlueClaws’ drive; meaning that the Roofman’s efforts were simultaneously not in vain and “in vein.” Life sure can be funny sometymes. And, yes, that was an intentional spelling error in the previous sentence. In the spirit of the blood drive I was attempting to be “typo positive.”
We’ll conclude by focusing on a team whose spacebound aspirations may soon come to an end: the Akron Aeros. This traditionally aerodynamic entity is currently staging an online “re-branding contest,” with voting continuing through September 1.
While the option remains to keep the “Aeros” name, other possibilities include Gum Dippers, RubberDucks, Tire Jacks, and Vulcans. All of these names allude to Akron’s industrial past, primarily its status as a leading producer of rubber.
While I generally like team names that incorporate local history, it is my opinion that the alliterative pizazz of Akron Aeros remains superior to the new contenders. Will the voting public agree? Do you?
For now, things remain up in the air.
We are careening toward what is sure to be an eminently enjoyable Holiday Weekend, and strenuous acts like “reading things on the internet” don’t hold much appeal at the present moment. So allow me to take you on out of the work week with a cavalcade of recent video masterworks to emanate from the Minor League landscape.
Let’s start with the one Minor League team that will NOT be celebrating July 4th: the Vancouver Canadians. Our neighbors to the North produced a Major League-spoofing commercial that is rapidly attaining viral status.
If that somehow hasn’t satiated your desire to see Minor League productions of Major League, then check out this recent “One-Minute Movie” put together by the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Staying within the always rich topic of “Ohio-based Minor League parody”, the Akron Aeros are promoting an upcoming appearance by soap star Patrick Drake by putting words into his mouth.
The next day the Aeros’ are trying to appeal to a younger segment of the female fan demographic with their “Princess Tea Party.” Mascot Orbit is doing his best to learn the proper etiquette.
The Aeros’ Eastern League compatriots Trenton Thunder don’t need to worry about selling tickets to this weekend’s slate of games, thanks to the presence of rehabbing superstar Derek Jeter. But not even Hall of Fame-bound Bronx icons possess the charisma of the team’s endlessly effervescent Bobby Baseball.
Also in possession of copious charisma if Montgomery Biscuits pitcher Chris Archer. Thursday is “Ladies Night” in Montgomery, and one lucky lady will win a date with the dashing right-hander:
Not as desirable to the ladies is new Frederick Keys’ mascot “Frank Key.” The freakishly large cranium might have something to do with that.
But the true indicator of any Minor League video’s success is how it plays in Peoria. And this one, from the hometown Chiefs, has been viewed plenty of times within the fine Illinois metropolis.
I’d say that the above definitively proves that rhythm is not a prerequisite of professional baseball success. Also not a prerequisite of professional baseball success: being human.
It’s not just a lazy stereotype, it’s the capital T Truth: Anatomically incorrect snakes take their celebrity airport pick-ups very seriously.
And that’s gonna conclude the blogging week. Enjoy the Holiday, and I’ll see you right back here at this very URL on July 5.
The fifth and final stop in this, my most recent Minor League road trip, was Akron’s Canal Park. This facility has served as the home of the Double-A Aeros since 1997, and is located in the heart of downtown.
To give you an idea of the general surroundings, the stadium is located just down the street from the Civic Theater.
And across the street from from a closed storefront featuring this interesting artwork.
Large municipal buildings abound throughout the area, and some are even called “Municipal Building.”
And the streets are litter-free, thanks to Akron’s passion for the regional sport known as “Trashball.”
Canal Park offers a decent urban view from the seating bowl, with many of the buildings associated with the renowned Akron Children’s Hospital.
And Canal Park got its name for a reason — Akron was settled at the summit of the Ohio-Erie Canal, and developed into a manufacturing and transportation hub. Beyond left field, there are still some aquatic reminders of the city’s history.
The view toward center field reveals an 18″x25″ digital scoreboard, as well as an inflatable slide that takes up seemingly every inch of available space.
Above the seating bowl are 25 suites (20 owned by the team and five by the city). They were personally decorated by the stadium’s original suiteholders, with motifs that could be characterized as “ladies sewing circle” and “old man’s den.”
On this particular evening, early-arriving fans received a “Batman” bobblebelly in honor of the Aeros’ iconic on-field dancer and bat retriever.
The promotion that I was really looking forward to was “Car Survivor,” in which five contestants vie to win a car by seeing who can live inside of it the longest. But, as it turned out, the contest had ended the day before on a technicality.
But the car was still there on the concourse — a 1996 Lexus with 182,000 miles already on it.
The fact that the Aeros are staging promotions such as “Car Survivor” can largely be attributed to new COO Jim Pfander, who spent the last decade with the Mike Veeck-owned Charleston RiverDogs.
One of Pfander’s beliefs when it comes to in-game entertainment is that “it doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be fun.” Perhaps that best explains new mascot Homer the Polka-Dot Pigeon.
This hallucinatory inflatable (the result of a staff meeting in which half the room was asked to suggest an animal, and the other half a color combination) is joined by long-time mascot Orbit.
As well as a fast food representative desperately promoting the consumption of a rival species in order to save himself.
And speaking of animal consumption, you may recall that the Aeros received a lot of attention this past offseason after unveiling gargantuan meat creations like the Three Dog Night and Nice 2 Meat You burger.
But such innovations are just a small part of a larger story, which is that the club has totally revamped its concessions. Pfander recruited fellow Charleston RiverDog Jason Kerton to serve as food and beverage director, and under his direction each of the six concourse concession stands has taken on a distinct theme.
For example, “Rabbit Food” is available at the health-conscious “Farmer’s Market.”
The menu at the left field grill stand is considerably less healthy.
A large array of franks are available at “The Dog Pound” (with the menu done up in Cleveland Browns colors).
The Major League-referencing “Jobu’s Voodoo.”
The self-explanatory Biergarten
While “Taters” is the only stand equipped with fryers (which are used to fry up pickles and sauerkraut, among a bevy of more standard fare).
But my food-centric wanderings were soon interrupted, as I was asked if I’d like to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.
But of course!
But don’t let those flawless mechanics fool you — I bounced it, for the first (and I hope only) time in my ceremonial first pitch throwing career.
As penance for this lack of control, I accepted an invitation to spend some time in the dunk tank located down the right field line. But since this necessitated a change of clothes, so I ducked into the team store.
I selected the following retro-themed tee, which was then personalized with “Ben’s Biz” across the back (it’s always great when teams are able to provide this service).
The dunk tank is one of the kid’s area amusements, and usually occupied by interns. $1 buys two throws.
This kid, one “Heckman” from the nearby town of Solon, was relentless. He must have spent at least $15 at the tank, and knocked me into the water again and again and again. In the following picture, I am most likely saying “What the heck, man?” That was my go-to line.
But the water was refreshing, and all in all this was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of innings. I liked interacting with the various kids, and quickly judging whether to taunt them (as with Heckman) or attempt to increase their confidence via exaggerated displays of fear.
Upon leaving the dunk tank, I threw on my shoes and was immediately escorted to the top of the first base dugout for the nightly “Pie an Intern” contest. Usually this is preceded by some sort of trivia contest before the inevitable pie-ing, but time was short so on-field MC Calvin Funkhouser simply told the young contestant to “Go ahead and hit him with a pie.”
And so he did.
The pie was then removed, and I was turned around and put face to face with that menacing triumvirate of faux-Mexican wrestlers. Then, I was hit with a pie again.
Walking back up the stairs toward the concourse, I found it impossible to wipe the smile (or the whipped cream) off of my face. I was soaking wet and covered in whipped cream, and somehow still operating within a professional context.
And to top it all off, it was a beautiful summer evening.
I cleaned myself off the best that I could, changed back into my regularly-scheduled outfit, and met up with Kerton for dinner — Akron Aeros’ style!
The Nice 2 Meat You Burger, which could feed two people easily, consists of two 1/3 pound patties, two hot dogs, bacon, cheese, and onions. It is honestly more than a publicity stunt — it’s very tasty. The key is that the meat well-done, providing a uniform crispness throughout.
Keep your distance, Chik-Fil-A cow.
Damp, sticky, smelling like whipped cream, and eating a giant hamburger. The apex of my life so far.
“Dessert” was the Three Dog Night — a hot dog stuffed inside a brat stuffed inside a kielbasa, placed on a hoagie roll and then slathered with sauerkraut and spicy stadium mustard.
This, too, was tasty. But it was more like eating a hot dog stew than some magical combination of meat, in which kielbasa combined with brat to create some heretofore unknown taste combination.
One thing I liked about the Aeros’ approach to “extreme” concessions was that 1. they actually taste good and 2. they are available at all times. And, as a result, they are actually selling. Kerton estimated that through Saturday, intrepid Akronites had consumed 1000 Three Dog Nights and 600 Nice 2 Meat You Burgers.
And it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the mustard atop of the Three Dog Night is Bertman’s. The Aeros even have it for sale in the gift shop, and I am happy to report that I smuggled it through airport security and now enjoying it in NYC.
Kerton also sent me home with an array of peanuts from the iconic Peanut Shoppe. This Akron institution is located across from the stadium, and their products are available at Canal Park. I really wish I had had the chance to visit.
Another place I wish I could have visited was Chrissy Hynde’s VegiTerranean restaurant. The meatless fare offered by the Pretenders frontwoman would have been a welcome counterpoint to ballpark cuisine. Also, the Pretenders are awesome.
After the game, while gathering my scattered belongings, I met longtime team owner Mike Agganis. We engaged in a freewheeling and rather absurd conversation, often punctuated with remarks like “I bet you’ve never met an owner like me!”
No, Mr. Agganis, I hadn’t.
After leaving the stadium, I happened upon the latest installment of Akron’s Saturday night “Lock 3 Concert Series.”
That’s Hotel Calfornia up there on the stage, an Eagles tribute band. I have no love for that particular rock entity, but it was an admirably flawless replication. They closed with “Life in the Fast Lane”, an apropos selection for any road trip soundtrack. There’s never a dull moment.
But, for now, I am back within New York City’s comforting embrace. To those who have sent me blog-worthy material over the past week — THANK YOU. It’ll be featured here soon, promise.